This guest column is by Kumar Venkatesiah, an independent marketing and elearning consultant
Dealing with angry customers is part and parcel of any business. But when such brickbats spill over from your support inbox to the public domain, you have a brand reputation problem to take care of. Depending on your industry and the credibility of the customer, negative customer reviews can sometimes bring your business down to a great extent. So how does a business deal with negative reviews? Here are some pointers.
Not all negative reviews need action
The first thing to remember is that not all negative reviews demand action. If you are a restaurant chain with hundreds of reviews each month, a couple of negative reviews here and there are not likely to bring down your business. As a responsible business, it is important to be active on services like Yelp to respond to critical reviews. This way, it is possible to not only help the dissatisfied customer out, but also build a feedback loop to improve your business. But having said that, if you are a business with hundreds of reviews (with a few angry ones), you do not necessarily need to invest time in responding to unhappy customers.
Maintain composure while dealing with angry reviewers
This is customer service 101 but businesses often fail to recognize that public reviews are visible to potential new customers as well and how you deal with an angry customer is a testimonial to how these prospective customers can expect to be treated. Regardless of how unreasonable a reviewer is, maintain composure and provide a response that will make new customers empathetic to your position. However, please remember not to incentivize negative reviews by showering them with freebies or coupons. That encourages more customers to post negative reviews in the hope of receiving some goodies themselves.
Evaluate impact on your marketing channels
Some negative reviews can receive undue publicity when they are picked by media outlets or when such public reviews show up on the first page of Google while searching for your brand name. This can cause a long-term impact on your business and credibility. It is important to hire a PR agency or a reputation management company that can take stock of the impact that such negative reviews cause and help alleviate any potential harm to your brand. But do remember that reputation management can take time to show results and so as a business, you need to make sure that you give your agency sufficient time before evaluating on the success of these campaigns.
Create standard operating procedures (SOP)
Negative reviews are a routine occurrence in any business and one of the best ways to minimize impact and improve your reputation is by creating standard processes to adopt each time your business is hit by an angry customer. Pursuing such a documented approach not only helps businesses identify possible flaws in their operating procedure, but also creates sufficient knowledge management within an organization on the best way to deal with critical situations whenever they arise.